The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has been at the forefront of art and culture in San Francisco for decades. Since opening as the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1935, the museum has grown exponentially — adding “Modern” to its name on its rise to the top.
In 2009, SFMOMA partnered with Doris and Donald Fischer, founders of The Gap, to provide The Fischer Collection — one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world with over 1,100 works including Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, and Roy Lichtenstein, among so many others.
Having outgrown its 70,000 square foot space, SFMOMA announced the museum would expand its facilities and double the endowment to mark its 75th anniversary. The museum closed for expansion in June 2013 and reopened on May 14, 2016. We got a sneak peek before SFMOMA opened to the public, and we’re excited to show you around.
Renowned Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta designed the building, inspired by the San Francisco Bay and our very own Karl the Fog, utilizing over 700 fiberglass panels to create a rippling effect as the sun changes position. The new-and-dramatically-improved SFMOMA spans 170,000 square feet of exhibition and gallery space across seven floors — a very welcome 100,000 square foot addition which makes SFMOMA the largest museum of its kind in the United States.
The new museum also offers three floors of public galleries. The third floor features a large living wall of flora native to the region, the largest public living wall in the United States with over 19,000 plants.
Our visit to the new SFMOMA began on the 7th floor, home to the Contemporary Galleries. One of our favorite pieces found on the 7th floor was Ai Weiwei’s Colored Vases, a centerpiece for the gallery. Also on this floor are multimedia exhibits and a conservation studio allowing artists to share behind-the-scenes work to visitors.
Other notable works on this floor include Jeff Koons’s Large Vase of Flowers, Glenn Ligon’s Double America, and Julia Scher’s trippy surveillance exhibit Predictive Engineering.
Also on the museum’s 7th floor is an outdoor terrace with several sculptures, including Zombie Boy (City) by Marc Quinn. From the terrace, you’ll experience a greater appreciation for the gorgeous design of the building, as well as views of the sculpture garden below, and some city views.
The expansive New Painting & Sculpture Galleries await on the 6th floor, where The Fischer Collection begins (or ends, depending on how you approach the museum).
An architecture and design gallery — also located on the 6th floor — features a temporary typography exhibit called “Typeface to Interface”. This exhibition notes the shift from analog to digital in visual communications, guiding visitors past Helvetica-lettered posters, typewriters, Apple’s Macintosh, first generation iPhones, and Google Glass (yes, the inclusion of Google Glass had us scratching our heads, too).
The Fischer Collection continues on SFMOMA’s 5th floor, with more painting and sculpture galleries. This level is also home to Cafe 5, which serves California-fusion fare in a space surrounded by the museum’s sculpture garden. The Jean and James Douglas Family Sculpture Garden provides indoor and outdoor seating for Cafe 5, as well as a rest stop while visiting the museum. Cafe 5 serves up light dishes, including flatbreads, fresh organic salads, artisanal smørrebrød-style open face sandwiches, as well as coffee and pastries.
The 5th floor’s permanent selection of works from The Fischer Collection is titled “Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art”, exhibiting artwork from the 1960s and beyond. Artists include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, and Chuck Close, among many others. Modern art lovers will swoon at Warhol’s Nine Painted Marilyns, Self-Portrait, and Triple Elvis. Several light installations are featured on the 5th floor, with Dan Flavin’s untitled being one of our favorites (apparently a favorite on Instagram, too).
Joan Mitchell’s stunning Bracket greets visitors at the entrance of the 4th floor’s “Approaching American Abstraction” exhibit with flashing strokes of cobalt blue, emerald, pink, and chartreuse. The exhibit includes a selection of works from The Fischer Collection, including a number of pieces by Ellsworth Kelly and a little sanctuary dedicated to Agnes Martin.
A large multidisciplinary space on the 4th floor — called the “White Box” — hosts many different mediums of performance art, with lighting and acoustics for live performances. The 4th floor is also home to the Mimi and Peter Haas Galleries and the Barbara and Gerson Bakar Galleries, both of which host special exhibitions including “The Campaign for Art”.
“The Campaign for Art” was created by SFMOMA in 2009 to deepen and expand the museum’s collection to provide a broader view of modern and contemporary art. Over seven years, SFMOMA acquired more than 3,000 with the support of over 200 donors, increasing the collection by more than 10%.
SFMOMA’s 3rd floor is now home to the Prtizker Center for Photography, which hosts an interpretive gallery, a print study center, and the largest gallery space for photography in any art museum in the United States. This level also features the Pat and Bill Wilson Terrace, which hosts large outdoor sculptures and the nation’s largest public living wall.
By the time we reached the 3rd floor, we were experiencing serious sensory overload and needed a quick pick-me-up. Thankfully, Sightglass Coffee has a new outpost located on SFMOMA’s 3rd floor, serving up pastries and craft coffee and espresso drinks. (We’ll miss Blue Bottle’s presence at SFMOMA — why can’t we have both!?) You’ll have to enjoy your coffee within the parameters of the coffee shop/cafe space, but SFMOMA has softened the blow with interactive display stations throughout the area.
The Helen and Charles Schwab Hall, where tickets are sold, is located on the 2nd floor. Behind the Schwab Hall is the Koret Education Center, a 4,800 square foot resource center including a library and two classrooms. This level is also home to the Walter and Elise Haas Galleries, which host some of the museum’s best works — all free to the public.
SFMOMA is accessible via three entrances on the 1st floor. The Third Street entrance welcomes guests with the Atrium, where light pours in from the iconic oculus onto the new sculptural staircase. The Minna Street entrance provides quick access to the Koret Education Center and Phyllis Watts Theater, which has been completely renovated with a larger stage and new projector. The Howard Street entrance provides access to the Howard Street Gallery, with huge glass walls and Richard Serra’s enormous walk-in spiral sculpture, Sequence.
In addition to the free galleries, SFMOMA will soon include an exhibition restaurant called In Situ, helmed by Chef Cory Lee, recipient of 3 Michelin Stars. In Situ is expected to open in Spring 2016, and details for the highly-anticipated opening are currently sparse. The restaurant, which will feature an a la carte menu of dishes “recreated from over 80 chefs around the world” (including noma’s Rene Redzepi), will have space for 150 seats.
With over 170,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor gallery space spread out over 7 levels, SFMOMA has set a new standard for art museums.
Looking for more to do when you’re done at the museum? Check out our guide to SoMa.
Enter to win two (2) tickets to the new SFMOMA below.
Deadline: Sunday, June 5th at 11:59PM (PST).
Eligibility requirements: You must be at least 18 years of age and live within 50 miles of San Francisco, CA.